Is it time to replace Mort?

Most everyone who’s steeped deeply enough in the culture of Visual Studio has probably run across some mention of Mort. Mort is one of a triumvirate of personas that the Visual Studio team uses to describe the developers that they are targeting. The other two members of this group are Elvis and Einstein. (I got complaints from internal people the last time I mentioned the personas, so let me take a moment to say that they are open knowledge.) Love them or hate them, the personas have become an integral part of the way that many people talk about VB, C#, and C++, both inside and outside the halls of Microsoft.

There is a problem, though. Let me illustrate, if I may. First, here’s Einstein:

Einstein

A bit of a card, to be sure, but generally a pretty brilliant guy. Sure, he’s spent most of his life chasing some crazy theory of unification, but overall he’s the go-to guy when you’ve got some rocket science project. And, of course, he’s the one claimed by the C++ folks. (Since you pretty much have to be a rocket scientist to fully grok C++…)

Next, we’ve got Elvis:

Elvis

OK, so maybe Elvis’s best years are a little bit behind him and he’s just been coasting on his youthful talent. And, yes, maybe he’s been hitting the corn dogs a little bit too hard. But, c’mon… He’s Elvis, for heaven’s sake! The King! Maybe you don’t call him if you want to go to the Moon in a rocket, but if you want to entertain a stadium’s worth of rabid, screaming fans who won’t notice he’s, um, a little overweight, he’s your man. And, of course, he’s claimed by the C# folks.

Now, we finally come to Mort:

Mort

Hmmmm. Well. Yes.

Now, I should say that this is not the way that I think of Mort. Or that this is the way that our team thinks of Mort. To me, Mort is a smart, pragmatic guy who’s more interested in rolling up his sleeves and saving the world than sitting around noodling on some unified field theory or eating copious amounts of doughnuts. But to a large slice of the world who have an opinion about Mort, this is who they see. A toothless, unkempt hillbilly who’s best kept up in the mountains of West Virginia and away from all nice and normal folks.

And, of course, he’s the one claimed by the VB folks. He’s us. See the problem?

Personally, I think it’s time to let go of the Mort persona. Send him a nice fat check, a referral to a good orthodontist, and thank him for his hard work. And in his place? Well, I’d like to propose hiring this guy as our new persona:

 Ben

Ben, as I’ll call him, is a pretty pragmatic guy and a bit of a polymath, a jack-of-all-trades. In between a writing and political career, he also finds time to be a postmaster, a publisher, a scientist, and an inventor. In short, he does what most VB programmers do: he multi-tasks like crazy, solving problems wherever he goes. (More information about Ben can be found here, for those not steeped in American history.) Now, sure, Ben’s not some rock star like your average George or Thomas is, getting all the attention with flashy military or political antics, but he’s really your guy when you need something done, you need it done right, and you need it done with a minimum of fuss and bother.

Doesn’t Ben sound like a wonderful persona for VB?

Of course, when it comes to product planning stuff like this, what I think doesn’t really matter a hill of beans. I’m sure there’s no getting rid of Mort, no matter what some people may think of him. But we can dream, can’t we?

25 thoughts on “Is it time to replace Mort?

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  2. Mike Shaffer

    I like it…I’ve often thought that the persona of Mort was a little broad. There is still a place (sadly) for Mort, but as a card carrying Ben, I think it’s time we get recognized!

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  5. Raj Chaudhuri

    I like Ben. But I have also grown to like the Mort persona over the years (I remember being offended by it the first time I read about it, as a Microsoft employee). I vote we reclaim that persona, and change the definition and perception.

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  8. Miles Archer

    Ben was a rock star in his time. I mean, he tamed lightning. But, most people now don’t know that, so he’d make a great replacement.

    Reply
  9. zzz

    What about us younger devs who use C#,C and don’t really think that MS is helping itself by reinforcing these stereotypes on any of the language?

    If you ask me the IDE should be there to help you if you so wanted regardless of the language. Now there’s clear gaps in functionality going from one language to another.

    Reply
  10. Raj Chaudhuri

    Paul

    On the download page for the new VS 2008 Express editions, the blurb for VB express says "Productivity that is ideal for the first time or casual Windows programming". We should perhaps try to change that perception.

    Reply
  11. simon geering

    I agree with Raj Chaudhuri that Microsoft needs to get it’s Marketing / PR house in order. Give a few people over there a good slaping with regards to the VB 2008 express blurb! Honestly how do you expect vb to be taken seriously when your own marketing department is representing vb as a language releasing trash like that desription.

    Reply
  12. Amanda SIlver

    Here, here! I completely agree that "Ben Franklin" is a more accurate representation for how we think about our muse.

    But, the name "Ben" is pretty generic while "Elvis" and "Einstein" already conjure up images. Perhaps "Franklin" might be better?

    I think there’s some nepotism going on here.

    Reply
  13. Chris

    I’ve always thought that Mort should be Replaced by Rambo. Why? Rambo gets the job done; its frequently quick and often done with a bazooka when a hammer might do– but damnit– the job gets done! While Rambo might not represent all vb developers well, i think he does capture the persona of a large contingent: those who came to visual studio from a classic asp background — the developers who carry the baggage of VBScript and often get by on that while learning as little about the .net framework as possible. Most of these developers perceive the .net framework as vb script + asp.net’s server controls. What’s late binding; what’s reflection: Rambo doesn’t know and does not care- he blows shit up, kills commies and gets the job done! God bless Rambo!

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  14. Chris

    From First Blood:

    Colonel Trautman:

    "You don’t seem to want to accept who you are dealing with. You are dealing with a man who is an expert—with guns, with knives, with his bare hands. A man who’s been trained to ignore pain, to ignore weather. To live off the land and eat things that would make a billy goat puke. In Vietnam, his mission was to dispose of enemy personnel. To kill, period. Win by attrition. Well, Rambo was the best."

    Reply
  15. Branco Medeiros

    I used to describe programming languages to the non-programmers around me, like this:

    C (and it’s inheritance, like C++, CH, Java) is John Lenon. They have that inpenetrable, visionary thing about then.

    VB (and VB.Net) is more like Paul. It

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  16. Branco Medeiros

    (grrr… my notebook’s keyboard seems to have gone nuts, sorry for the incomplete posts)

    I used to describe programming languages to the non-programmers around me like this:

    C (and it’s inheritance, like C++, C#, Java) is John Lennon with that impenetrable, visionary thing about him.

    VB (and VB.Net) is more like Paul McCartney, someone very clever, very easy to sympathize, but don’t think he’s just easy-goings. He has an undoubtfull but subtle complexity that you can only get after listening to him (or programming with it).

    Lisp, Haskell, the plethora of functional languages out there are, to me, definitely George Harrison, with all that esoteric influence, the things that sound strange at first but bear with them for some time and you suddenly realize their profound meaning.

    Finaly Python, Perl, Boo, PHP, etc, the languages that seem to be at the margin, that are said to be simplistic at best, etc, are like Ringo Starr, uncredited, uglyduckish, but unquestionably fun, pragmatic, gap-filling, with a profound influence over his peers, wether you like him or not.

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